Coun­try is Shamir’s first love, but it took an in­tro­duc­tion to house mu­sic to Ratchet ev­ery­thing up

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Shamir Bai­ley isn’t the only 20-year-old kid you’ll come across who has sto­ries to tell about his in­tern­ship, though his is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

The Las Ve­gas na­tive was work­ing in the of­fices of a New York record la­bel and one day he copped that there was a change in the air. The other in­terns were star­ing at him strangely. One of them came over to him when he got to his desk and asked, “Are you signed to this la­bel?”

There are not many pop stars in the mak­ing who de­cide to work un­paid for the la­bel that has just signed them. For Bai­ley, there were a some sim­ple, prac­ti­cal rea­sons for his course of ac­tion.

“I needed some­thing to do with my time in be­tween sign­ing and mak­ing the al­bum. I al­ways wanted to in­tern at a la­bel, but I couldn’t get it based on my own grades or any­thing. I fig­ured that XL couldn’t say no to me now that they’ve signed me and if they did, I’ll be re­ally sad.”

Bai­ley took a lot of notes in his time on the of­fice floor. “I learned the process be­hind re­leas­ing an al­bum. I worked with the pub­li­cist and learned about the press process and con­tact­ing peo­ple like you. I worked with the art guys and the dis­tri­bu­tion peo­ple and saw how the whole thing comes to­gether.

“It was re­ally cool to be so hands-on, prob­a­bly more hands-on than most artists get to be. It helped es­pe­cially in my case be­cause no one re­ally knew who I was and I wasn’t go­ing out all the time and peo­ple didn’t re­ally care about me. If th­ese peo­ple are in­vest­ing so much time and money in what you’re do­ing and you want to find out what’s go­ing on, it’s re­ally su­per-good to be that hands-on.”

When it came to the mu­sic and songs on the al­bum, Bai­ley al­ready had that licked. His first EP came about when he sent some rough and ready Sound­cloud demos to Nick Sylvester at the God mode la­bel. Sylvester dug what he heard, brought Bai­ley to New York to record a re­lease and the North­town EP brought this pop star in the mak­ing into the lime­light.

Fast-for­ward a year and Bai­ley’s de­but al­bum Ratchet is here to win you over with its charm and gump­tion. It’s pop mu­sic full of bounce and bold­ness, demon­strat­ing all of Bai­ley’s mu­si­cal smarts from dirty funk to croon­tas­tic r’n’b, his hand­i­work with hooks and melodies and his lovely, dis­tinc­tive near-falsetto voice.


It’s a far cry from the mu­sic which Bai­ley was first kick­ing around a few years ago. “The first mu­sic I did was folk and coun­try be­cause that was the mu­sic around me and that kind of mu­sic worked best on the acous­tic gui­tar I had. I even did a few record­ings and shows, but it didn’t work be­cause my voice didn’t suit the ma­te­rial.

“But all my songs still start out on the acous­tic. De­mon def­i­nitely started out as a coun­try song. I wrote it on gui­tar, I sent it to Nick [Sylvester, who pro­duced

Ratchet] and he built around it. That’s how I write nat­u­rally to this day. I’ve al­ways been ob­sessed by coun­try and folk mu­sic and I wanted to be this weird hy­brid be­tween Laura Mar­ling and Tay­lor Swift.”

That was back in his home of North­town, a sub­urb north of Las Ve­gas. It wasn’t quite the Sin City of leg­end, notes Bai­ley. “Of course, there were slot ma­chines in the gro­cery stores and con­ve­nience stores and there’s three or four casi­nos like the Can­nery and Fi­esta, but it’s to­tally not what peo­ple ex­pect when they think of Ve­gas. It’s a small town in the mid­dle of the city. We even have a pig farm. It was sub­ur­bia, but it had an edge to it.”

Ve­gas may be home to big live spec­tac­u­lars and elec­tronic dance-mu­sic su­per­clubs, but those scenes were not for Bai­ley. For a start, he was too young to get in so he spent his time soak­ing up “the mad en­ergy” at DIY and punk shows and check­ing out the city’s al­ter­na­tive scene.

“Down­town was where you could find more al­ter­na­tive peo­ple. You’d punk rock bowl­ing and things like that. It was def­i­nitely more pro­gres­sive than the Strip, which is su­per­fi­cial and touristy. We pretty much stayed away from the Strip be­cause there was noth­ing there for us.”

Bai­ley’s em­brace of dance mu­sic, then, didn’t come about through the EDM scene which cur­rently sound­tracks Ve­gas and other US cities. “What I knew as dance mu­sic was EDM and I re­ally didn’t like it at all. It was the kind of mu­sic they played at the ho­tel pool par­ties on the Strip and it was hor­ri­ble.

“I was try­ing to do some­thing pop and melodic and when I was shown house mu­sic, I went ‘oh yeah, I want to do this’. It was a re­lief to know that I was able to find this mu­sic and put a name on it. I loved the melodic as­pect of house mu­sic pretty much right away.

“But I didn’t want to go too deep into it be­cause Nick was al­ready well versed in it. I think the fresh vibes in my mu­sic come from the fact that I’m not im­mersed in the house and disco scene and I’ve also taken in­spi­ra­tion from a bunch of mu­sic out­side those gen­res.”

Shake it off

He’s still get­ting used to hear­ing what other peo­ple are hear­ing in his mu­sic.

“When peo­ple men­tion in­flu­ences that are ac­tu­ally in­flu­ences, that’s the coolest thing. It’s kind of weird to think that all the voices I lis­tened to and liked when I was grow­ing up now form a part of what I do and my voice. Mu­sic and sound are very pow­er­ful things and how they get into your head and per­son­al­ity and man­ner­isms is amaz­ing.”

Bai­ley says pro­ducer Sylvester played a strong role in how

Ratchet turned out be­cause he could make sense of what the young singer wanted to do. “It’s of­ten hard for me to get my ideas into one co­he­sive thing as I like so many dif­fer­ent things. He made it so easy for me to pull from a dif­fer­ent bunch of gen­res and in­spi­ra­tions.”

All my songs still start out on the acous­tic. I’ve al­ways been ob­sessed by coun­try and folk mu­sic and I wanted to be this weird hy­brid be­tween Laura Mar­ling and Tay­lor Swift It’s al­most shock­ing how hard it is to hurt my feel­ings. I’ve never ever cared. It’s a good way of deal­ing with it

Lyri­cally, the al­bum deals with the ins and outs of a teenager com­ing of age com­plete with love songs, break-up songs and songs about be­ing mis­un­der­stood.

“I never was hor­ri­bly, hor­ri­bly bul­lied, but I’ve felt dif­fer­ent all my life. I’ve al­ways looked weird my whole life so I def­i­nitely jarred on some peo­ple.

“It’s al­most like shock­ing how hard it is to hurt my feel­ings. I’ve never ever cared. It’s a good way of deal­ing with it. You can trash talk as much as you want about me if that makes you happy, but noth­ing you can say is go­ing to bring me down.”

Bai­ley gig­gles. It’s un­likely then that any­thing which is go­ing to come his way in the next few months and years is go­ing to phase him all that much. His main fo­cus now is on the live show and that’s a rel­a­tively new ex­pe­ri­ence from him, both as a per­former and a fan.

“I don’t have live show ex­pe­ri­ences to act as in­flu­ences be- cause most of the shows in Ve­gas were 21 and over so I didn’t get to as many con­certs as I’d like to have done. It’s only re­cently that I’ve started go­ing to and see­ing more live shows. When it comes to my own show, I just get on­stage and vibe with the crowd.

“My show de­pends on the crowd and if the vibe is good, you’re in for a good show.”

Ratchet is re­leased to­day on XL Records

Shamir Bai­ley “It was sub­ur­bia, but it had an edge to it”

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